Image: The Embrace. © Sergey Gorshkov/Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2020
The organisers of Wildlife Photographer of the Year have revealed the winners of the 2020 competition.
Her Royal Highness, The Duchess of Cambridge, Patron of the Museum, announced Sergey Gorshkov as this year’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year for his magnificent image ‘The Embrace’, of an Amur tigress hugging an ancient Manchurian fir in the Russian Far East. Amur, or Siberian, tigers are only found in this region and it took more than 11 months for the Russian photographer to capture this moment with hidden cameras.
The Embrace. © Sergey Gorshkov/Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2020
Chair of the judging panel, renowned writer and former editor of BBC Wildlife Magazine, Rosamund ‘Roz’ Kidman Cox says, “It’s a scene like no other. A unique glimpse of an intimate moment deep in a magical forest. Shafts of low winter sun highlight the ancient fir tree and the coat of the huge tigress as she grips the trunk in obvious ecstasy and inhales the scent of tiger on resin, leaving her own mark as her message. It’s also a story told in glorious colour and texture of the comeback of the Amur tiger, asymbol of the Russian wilderness.”
The images will be showcased at the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition at the Natural History Museum, opening on 16 October 2020, before touring across the UK and internationally to venues in Australia, Canada, Denmark, Germany, and more. Limited visitor numbers and the Museum’s safety measures will ensure visitors enjoy a safe and welcoming experience, contemplating the images in a crowd-free gallery.
With an expression of sheer ecstasy, a tigress hugs an ancient Manchurian fir, rubbing her cheek against bark to leave secretions from her scent glands. She is an Amur, or Siberian, tiger, here in the Land of the Leopard National Park, in the Russian Far East. The race – now regarded as the same subspecies as the Bengal tiger – is found only in this region, with a small number surviving over the border in China and possibly a few in North Korea.
Hunted almost to extinction in the past century, the population is still threatened by poaching and logging, which also impacts their prey – mostly deer and wild boar, which are also hunted. But recent (unpublished) camera‑trap surveys indicate that greater protection may have resulted in a population of possibly 500–600 – an increase that it is hoped a future formal census may confirm. Low prey densities mean that tiger territories are huge.
Sergey knew his chances were slim but was determined to take a picture of the totem animal of his Siberian homeland. Scouring the forest for signs, focusing on trees along regular routes where tigers might have left messages – scent, hairs, urine or scratch marks – he installed his first proper camera trap in January 2019, opposite this grand fir. But it was not until November that he achieved the picture he had planned for, of a magnificent tigress in her Siberian forest environment.